Writing in Rhyme
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I can’t help writing in rhyme. I do it all the time.
Rhymes sneak into my texts unbidden
Or if they’re not there, or are too well hidden
Their absence clangs like a bell
And I feel compelled to find them somewhere… bear, care, dare, hair, tear… repair, despair…
It’s not fair...
I rhyme almost against my will, I’d so like to possess more literary skill
To master assonance, or align alliteration
To write words that sing for themselves in impassioned poetic creations
That paint pictures for the ears and leave imprints like kisses on the soul.
Has English Language so defined my brain
I think in rhymes and words that sound the same?
As if Shakespeare’s ghost so haunts our linguistic pysche
We cannot escape de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dee ?
Remember the rhyming books of childhood
A mouse took a stroll in the deep, dark wood.
Crafted tales to help children grow
Oh help ! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo !
We use rhymes to teach sounds and literacy, phonetics and the ABC
We try to teach kids right from wrong using rhythm, rhyme and song
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
Rhyme’s a nice device to show the ear and mind the way
But can verse be something more than sonic, phonic verbal play?
Somehow it doesn’t pass for literature of high class
And when the going gets tough and we face adult stuff
We’re supposed to put the rhymes aside.
Well, I tried. I really did.
When I had the need to write a poem about my mother’s death
I set out to avoid rhyming. I didn’t succeed.
Is it wrong to rhyme about death?
Does it trivialize so much pain to reduce it to a verbal game, like childhood nursery rhymes?
Well, kids deal with tough stuff too, sometimes.
My son had lost two grandparents by the time he was four.
He still asks “where’s Papi? Why don’t we see Nanny any more?”
He was in the house with me when my mother died.
I was giving him his breakfast when I should have been at her side.
Of course he wanted to know where she’d gone, and what was going on
I was advised not to euphemize,
Don’t say "she’s flown into the sky, she’s gone away"
As that leaves him to believe that she could come back some day.
And if that’s the worst he ever lives, he’ll be a lucky boy indeed:
If I were able to pray, I know that every day
I’d thank any relevant deity that we don’t live in a war zone
Where sending children across the sea
Is a safer option than staying at home.
And you know, lots of rhymes are written about war.
I studied the poets of the Great War in school English class
The power of their words had me weeping over my homework task
Alan Seeger had a Rendezvous with Death, and he wasn’t afraid
Neither to die, nor to let it rhyme with “breath”.
Wilfred Owen, in his "Anthem for Doomed Youth"
What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
He wrote to show the truth of the horrors faced by fighting men
Battling misplaced patriotism armed only with his pen.
So death is part of life and as such should get the rhyming treatment.
Don’t stress about pentameters and such poetic feet
Just go with the flow and write what you know and tell us about what you feel
Who cares one jot if it rhymes or not – as long as we’re keeping it real.
WIth acknowledgements to Julia Donaldson, Alan Seeger and Wilfred Owen.
Quotations in this poem:
Julia Donaldson "The Gruffalo"
Alan Seeger "I have a rendez-vous with death"
Wilfred Owen "Anthem for Doomed Youth"